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Thread: Danish/Swedish/Norwegian/Dutch: mutual intelligibility

  1. #61
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    Re: Danish/Swedish/Norwegian/Dutch: mutual intelligibility

    In Sweden, I grew up with a couple of danes but they spoke danish at home only. As a teenager, when I first visited Köpenhamn (Copenhagen) I could see signs of "Tilbud" in the stores when I traveled around by bus. I couldnt believe it. Now, tillbud is an old swedish word for accident (olycka). At first I thought something bad at happened, but it would be impossible to have so many accidents at the same time as I was traveling around by bus. I then asked what it meant and they told me it means "Sale", or Rea in swedish.

    And I think this story is the key: learning the key words in each other languages will get you far, the rest will just come natuarally after a short period of time. Like myself, I worked for a danish company and it took a week or two before I was able to pick up the pronunciation of the danish language aswell as the special numeral system pronunciation. Using slang is a big no no of course.

    Every swede understand norwegian (bokmål) from birth. Some dialects can be hard though, even for norwegians. I truly wished we had a common scandinavian TV-channel in our respective state owned television. That would truly help to promote the scandinavian languages further and keep it on top.

  2. #62
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    Re: Danish/Swedish/Norwegian/Dutch: mutual intelligibility

    Oh, and I just love when norwegians crawl on the floor through the supermarkets here in Sweden looking for the low prices. But they are more then welcomed to Sweden to save some money on their expensive groceries back home. In return, young swedes are going to Norway for work.

  3. #63
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    Re: Danish/Swedish/Norwegian/Dutch: mutual intelligibility

    Quote Originally Posted by NorwegianNYC View Post
    Written - Danish. Spoken - Swedish. The fact that Danish is hard to understand for other Scandinavians, is a fairly recent phenomenon (1850s and onward). During the Battle of Copenhagen in 1807, we have evidence that the Danish and Norwegian sailors in the navy had no problem communicating with each other, and as late as in 1905, when the Danish prince Carl became king of Norway (as Haakon VII), he spoke a form of 'high Danish' (probably slightly old style) that was fully intelligible for Norwegians.
    Danish has actually moved further away from the two other Scandinavian languages through its altered pronunciation than Swedish/Norwegian has moved from Danish.
    This is interesting that spoken Danish has changed significantly in the last century or so. Language change is not a constant and there is historic evidence from a number of languages that there can be periods of rapid change.

    With regard to spoken Danish, may I ask if it's changed much in the last 50-70 years? When Danes watch old films do they notice much of a difference in their language?

    The reason for asking is that I recently watched Day of Wrath/Vredens Dag from 1943. I'm fairly familiar with the sound of modern Danish having lapped up Borgen, Forbrydelsen and Broen/Bron here in the UK along with some Dogme 95 films. To me, the language in Vredens Dag seemed easier (for me) to catch what was being said than modern Danish. Whether this is because of the painfully slow pace of the film was also represented in the way the dialogue is delivered I do not know, but it did seem as though 1940s Danish differed to 21st century Danish (to my less-than-educated ears at least).

  4. #64
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    Re: Danish/Swedish/Norwegian/Dutch: mutual intelligibility

    While I'm not a native speaker, I believe there is a point to be made here about the time Vredens dag was filmed in. I had a look at some scenes and as I suspected the performances are, literally speaking, a lot more theatrical than we're used to in movies nowadays. Actors trained to perform in plays tend to overplay on film as they don't take into account that the viewer is up close rather than spectating from a distance. This is very common in older movies (and in bad soap operas.. ).

    While there might be a lot more to your question, I think this might play a big part in why the spoken Danish in Vredens dag is easier to understand than the one in Borgen, Forbrydelsen and so on.

  5. #65
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    Re: Danish/Swedish/Norwegian/Dutch: mutual intelligibility

    To the two previous posters I can say, yes, Danish language has changed a lot the past 50-70 years. The change that has taken place may not so much be the one you recognize by comparing film made in the 40es and modern day television drama. What HAS changed a lot is that very distinct dialects have almost disappeared. You will hardly find anyone under the age of 30 still speaking a dialect that they wouldn't understand all over the country. However, if you find one I'd expect he would have grown up somewhere in the southernmost part of Jutland.

    But you are not likely to get to hear any distinct dialects except those out of upper class Copenhagen, when you watch movies made in the 40es. On top of that, usually spoken by actors trained to play theatre without PA equipment, let alone headset microphones.
    As if this was not bad enough: Danish Radio had a socalled microphone test that all people who were to talk or perform in any way on air, had to pass. To pass it they were required to stick to certain pronounciations that ruled out any out of Copenhagen dialect or working class sociolect. So basically, if you spoke the way about 70-80% of the Copenhagen population did, you were not were not allowed on Danish radio. Pretty odd for a country that usually had Socialdemocrat governments, I should say.

  6. #66
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    Re: Danish/Swedish/Norwegian/Dutch: mutual intelligibility

    Swedish radio had the same type of tests.
    Part of it was that you should be distinct in your pronunciation, so that the radiola speakers even of mediocre quality could reproduce an intelligible sound. I miss that today (I missed it sorely when driving forklift - noisy environment).

    And for Swedish films of the 40's (pilsnerfilmer), speech could very much be described as the Danish ones above.
    Clearer; crisper. Though sometimes with a very distinct Stockholm-dialect (i.e. not the standard Swedish of the times). And we had the bigger-than-life Edvard Persson with the Scanian dialect (he was very popular in Denmark too).
    ...men på den tiden fanns inte Wikipedia, så man fick klara sig med att förstå själv.

  7. #67
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    Re: Danish/Swedish/Norwegian/Dutch: mutual intelligibility

    The Norwegian Broadcasting had a similar feature. So did Norsk Film. Norway was on the verge of getting a "standard pronunciation" when the 60s brought in the 'speak dialect' movement, and as of 2013, spoken Norwegian is less standardized than ever.

    However - I would be most interested to hear from Danes who can give us some pointers as to what really happened in Danish pronunciation from around 1850 to 1950

  8. #68
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    Re: Danish/Swedish/Norwegian/Dutch: mutual intelligibility

    The perception of which Danish dialect was the most beautiful (…or the least, as the case may be) is obviously entirely subjective.


    What is more objective is the fact that many of the Danish dialects were essentially incomprehensible to outsiders back in the day where TV and radio-speaker tests were required. Fifty-sixty years ago, the Danish dialects were much more than a slight variation in intonation and represented a regional language, frequently with its own syntax, grammar and vocabulary. Rigsdansk, the standard form of Danish, which was influenced by dialects spoken primarily north of Copenhagen, used to be the dialect heard on Danish radio and TV, because it was clear and easily comprehensible to anyone in the country, to our fellow Scandinavians and learners of Danish. Rigsdansk used accepted standard grammar rules taught in all Danish schools, used pronunciation rules that among other things emphasized a clear distinction between the vowels e-a-æ, and i-y which resulted in crisp and clean sounds. The “gargle sound effects” so typical of present day Danish (Rigsdansk?) are produced when vowels are opened, (e.g. the country ‘Pakistan’ is pronounced Parkistan and… sadly, often misspelled that way). The front and near front vowels are being pronounced as mid-back/back vowels (græs (grass) as gras, kræft (cancer) as kraft, en ret (a dish) as rat etc.) Languages evolve, and we can discuss ad nauseam whether this evolution represents an improvement or a deterioration of the Danish language. What seems quite clear from this thread and numerous articles on this topic is that Danish is becoming increasing more difficult for outsiders to understand and learn.

  9. #69
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    Re: Danish/Swedish/Norwegian/Dutch: mutual intelligibility

    Thanks, Bic - that was indeed very helpful.

    Do you happen to know what triggered this process in Danish, and when it happened?. Personally, I do not think a languages gets either worse or better with changes - it simply evolves. However, it is obvious that in Danish this process is fairly 'modern' and took place over a reasonably short period of time. If not, spelling have caught up at least to some degree! Interestingly, during the days of the twin realms, you never hear about Norwegians complaining about Danish being "difficult to understand". Danish spelling would simply not be as consistently used in Norway (until 1840) if Danish pronunciation at the time was not fairly close to its spelling. In other words - Danish must have evolved significantly in terms of pronunciation in the period from 1830 until the advent of present-day Danish around 1950.

    What caused this, and was there a period in Danish language history that was particularly "inventive" in terms of pronunciation?

  10. #70
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    Re: Danish/Swedish/Norwegian/Dutch: mutual intelligibility

    Quote Originally Posted by NorwegianNYC View Post

    Do you happen to know what triggered this process in Danish, and when it happened?.....What caused this, and was there a period in Danish language history that was particularly "inventive" in terms of pronunciation?
    These are great questions which I couldn’t answer off the top of my head. I did a little research and I think this reference from the University of Copenhagen might interest you: http://dialekt.ku.dk/sproghistorie/#nationalisme

    For those who don’t read Danish, let me highlight some of the important points from the reference:

    Early 1700’s: a strong German influence; German was spoken at the royal courts, in theaters, in the Danish army, and in churches. During the late 1700’s the Danish language regained popularity, initially mainly in writing which culminated in the school reform of 1775, which determined that students should learn to speak and write a correct Danish. At the time there was no standard Danish and most Danes spoke a dialect.


    1800-1900: The era of Nationalism. The Danish language flourished under the increased focus on the importance of a mother tongue: what defined and united a people was the language. Dialects were no longer perceived as “deformed” or awkward variants of the Danish language. The late 1800’s were characterized by an urbanization trend, and as people began to move to the bigger cities, various neighborhoods were established for different socioeconomic groups in the Copenhagen area, each with its own dialect. The text above refers to ‘low’ and ‘high’ Copenhagen dialects spoken by the ‘working class’ and the ‘upper class’. The ‘high’ dialect was much closer to the written language and the written language was in turn modeled on this dialect. Specific examples from the high sociolect included the introduction of the soft d in words like en gade (a street), at made (to feed). This replaced the j sound (gaje, maje) and is still used in present day Danish. This ‘high’ Copenhagen dialect was made the standard or correct form of Danish, and was as such not considered a dialect per se. The late 1800’s marked the beginning of a slow but gradual disappearance of the various dialects. The rural dialects were now considered wrong and useless, a hindrance for students who had to learn to write and speak a correct Danish, rigsdansk.


    The post war era 1950-: This is the time period I was referring to in my post above. I can personally only comment on changes from the late 60’s. The article mentions the influence of the English language during this period, but that doesn’t explain the drastic change in the Danish pronunciation, which I think characterizes this time period. And as you point out, there’s a huge discrepancy between written and spoken Danish, and the gap seems to be widening. A new edition of the Danish Orthographical Dictionary, Retskrivningsordbogen, came out in Nov. of 2012. Usually, though, changes are centered on the Danish vocabulary, i.e. addition of new words/deletion of old, and changes in spelling are fairly inconspicuous [in my opinion]. Regarding the changes in spoken modern Danish, it sounds to my ear as if the ‘new standard Danish’ [my choice of words] is heavily influenced by the working class dialect of the Copenhagen area, and I have wondered if it might be a result of the political changes that have been taking place in Denmark with the Social Democratic Party growing in size and influencing almost all aspects of development in Denmark between 1924-82. Ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_..._%28Denmark%29 It’s conceivable that the Danes, wanting to dissociate from the upper class on all levels, more or less deliberately sought to avoid a language/dialect that might indicate a connection with this group?


    This got to be much longer than I had anticipated…

    Bic.

  11. #71
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    Re: Danish/Swedish/Norwegian/Dutch: mutual intelligibility

    Quote Originally Posted by NorwegianNYC View Post

    Personally, I do not think a languages gets either worse or better with changes - it simply evolves.
    As an afterthought…I mostly agree with this, although I can’t help but consider it a loss when words with specific vowel sounds allowing for their recognition out of context, lose their specificity due to the formation of ’hybrid vowels’ (e.g. the blending of e/a/æ and i/y which I mentioned above). In my mind, it’s a linguistic parallel to the disappearance of a specific species of animals. That’s all part of evolution and a changing world, new species evolve as do languages, but some of us may feel that we lost something in that process.

    Bic.

  12. #72
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    Re: Danish/Swedish/Norwegian/Dutch: mutual intelligibility

    Very interesting!
    Regarding the changes in spoken modern Danish, it sounds to my ear as if the ‘new standard Danish’ [my choice of words] is heavily influenced by the working class dialect of the Copenhagen area, and I have wondered if it might be a result of the political changes that have been taking place in Denmark [...] It’s conceivable that the Danes, wanting to dissociate from the upper class on all levels, more or less deliberately sought to avoid a language/dialect that might indicate a connection with this group?
    This sounds plausible. It has happened elsewhere as well. In Norwegian, the 'received pronunciation' lost most of its prestige in the early 1960s, but at the same time, Norwegian did not have a dominant dialect (for the lack of major cities), such as
    ‘high’ Copenhagen dialect was made the standard or correct form of Danish
    . The attempts to furnish Norwegian with a 'received pronunciation' by simply have people speak the language the way it was written failed. For a long time, the Bergen dialect was considered prestigious, and also Southern variants, but since the population center was increasingly moving eastwards (to Oslo), Eastern dialects now exercise greater influence.

    Danish Prince Carl became King Haakon VII of Norway in 1905. He was then 33 years old, and he spoke Danish throughout his life. Here is a sound clip of Haakon VII addressing the nation from London during WWII: http://www.kongehuset.no/c27062/tale...rukt_tid=27062. The language is obviously Danish, but most Norwegian is will not have a problem understanding what he says.

    I find you assessment interesting. Modern-day spoken Danish may simply be the result of a reaction, and the need to
    dissociate from the upper class on all levels, more or less deliberately [..] to avoid a language/dialect that might indicate a connection with this group

  13. #73
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    Re: Danish/Swedish/Norwegian/Dutch: mutual intelligibility

    Quote Originally Posted by NorwegianNYC View Post
    Danish Prince Carl became King Haakon VII of Norway in 1905. He was then 33 years old, and he spoke Danish throughout his life. Here is a sound clip of Haakon VII addressing the nation from London during WWII: http://www.kongehuset.no/c27062/tale...rukt_tid=27062. The language is obviously Danish, but most Norwegian is will not have a problem understanding what he says.
    Agreed, definitely Danish but clearly influenced by Norwegian (intonation in particular). Plus... he speaks slowly and enunciates clearly!
    Bic.

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    Re: Danish/Swedish/Norwegian/Dutch: mutual intelligibility

    Would you consider the underlying Danish of the King to be rigsdansk/high Copenhagen? Would you consider this fairly representative for an educated Dane around 1900?

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    Re: Danish/Swedish/Norwegian/Dutch: mutual intelligibility

    Quote Originally Posted by NorwegianNYC View Post
    Would you consider the underlying Danish of the King to be rigsdansk/high Copenhagen? Would you consider this fairly representative for an educated Dane around 1900?

    I think it's probably fairly representative of rigsdansk in the early 1900’s (although it's clearly influenced by Norwegian...something which may be more obvious to the Danish than to the Norwegian ear ).
    Bic.

  16. #76
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    Re: Danish/Swedish/Norwegian/Dutch: mutual intelligibility

    I know I'm posting on this toppic while it's not been opened since a long time, but I wanted to give a little remark on what is said about the irrelevancy of Dutch in this toppic. As a native Dutch speaker (with a, in my opinion, quite good level of practice in English and knowing enough German to make a normal conversation), I'm now learning Danish. I started 1 month ago, and I can say I can now understand without much difficulties an article on DR's website.


    I hardly have any difficulties using Danish basic grammar, because the construction of a sentence follows, as far as I am now in my learning process, exact the same rules as Dutch does. My English-language course spent a whole page explaining word order, which I read and skipped after writing beneath it "=Nederlands". Until now, this tactique has been very succesfull, me having made no syntax mistakes about that.


    Also, the article structure in Danish (en ø, øen, øer, øerne) seems at the first look quite strange, but is very similar to the Dutch de facto two genders "de" and "het".

    On the point of mutual intelligibility, Dutch and the Scandinavian languages are indeed not mutually understandable, even if written text is easily readable after some little exercice.

    Sincerely, Cape Grysbok

  17. #77
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    Re: Danish/Swedish/Norwegian/Dutch: mutual intelligibility

    Quote Originally Posted by NorwegianNYC View Post
    Thanks, Bic - that was indeed very helpful.

    Do you happen to know what triggered this process in Danish, and when it happened?. ..
    One very important factor was the school system. Simply the fact that people in general went to school and learned to read and write. It is very obvious that there are two die-hard dialects in Denmark. One is the dialect spoken in the South of Jutland. The part that belonged to Germany till 1920 and thus was not involved in any language or school reforms in the late 19th to early 20th century.

    The other one is the dialect or group of dialects spoken by the vast majority of people in Copenhagen, mainly the central to western parts of the city. (The Danish prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt is a good example). They really do not speak considerably different from the way they spoke 50 years ago. The difference simply is that their version of the language, and not that of an upper-class minority in the North of Copenhagen, has evolved to become the accepted standard.

  18. #78
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    Re: Danish/Swedish/Norwegian/Dutch: mutual intelligibility

    Sepia - so the North-Copenhagen (upper class) dialect is the basis of written Danish, but the West/central Copenhagen dialect is the basis of 'standard' spoken Danish today? If so, this is much along the lines of what Bicontinental says about a reaction to the high-brow Danish speech.

  19. #79
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    Re: Danish/Swedish/Norwegian/Dutch: mutual intelligibility

    Quote Originally Posted by NorwegianNYC View Post
    Sepia - so the North-Copenhagen (upper class) dialect is the basis of written Danish, but the West/central Copenhagen dialect is the basis of 'standard' spoken Danish today? If so, this is much along the lines of what Bicontinental says about a reaction to the high-brow Danish speech.

    Really, written Danish today is and probably never was any closer to NorthCopenhagen upper class than it was to Valby/Roedovre/Vestegn Danish is - at least not the past 50 to 60 years.

    If you pronounce "meget" in Old-School Radio-Danish it sounds like you would spell is like ther was a soft d in it. And if you pronounce it in Old-School Vesterbro it sounds more like "majed". Neither of the two pronounciations would be obvious, judging from the spelling. Now, I am not saying anything is more correct than the other. What is of utmost importance is that people understand each other and they usually do with both of these pronounciations. But what is also important ist the political part of it. What would be the general "smell" of it if only people with an upper-class accent or sociolect were allowed to anchor news in the electronic media? Well, that is the way it actually was. That you hear news-anchors speak with a Jutland accent in national Danish television is something relatively new. I am not sure you ever heard that 10 years ago.

    I don't really know if it would be right to say that West to Central-Copenhagen Danish were "standard". But it is probably a demographic fact that there are so many people living there that they are probably the largest group of Danes with the most similarities in the way they speak. To me that would be a logical way of determining a standard. That is also the way I would speak Danish when I am not deliberately speaking the Southern dialect (like when I want to make sure somebody from Copenhagen is not eavesdropping.)

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    Re: Danish/Swedish/Norwegian/Dutch: mutual intelligibility

    I am slightly nostalgic about the fact that this thread is still active, being that it introduced me to the hilarious Danish speech sketch some time ago (thankyou for that)

    Speaking from an English perspective, I find it very hard not to want to consider the Scandinavian languages as one unit, with many facets, rather than three languages with similarities. With a basic understanding of German, I find I can read articles in all three with some effort, even though I have not made serious effort to study any of them (I just met a Swedish girl on my travels, so I learned a word or two )

    I bet a few hundred years ago, English probably had more dialects than Chinese has today, and yet now from America to Australia and through South Africa, through all the countries where it remains or has been adopted as an unofficial second language, with all its accents and dialects and different cultures, the language is still just called 'English', and there is no major difficulty in communication that cannot be bridged with simple patience.

    This is because sayings and idioms from one end of English speaking world flow very freely to the other end (perhaps with the exception of from Britain to America, but I won't digress...); it would be easy for someone from 100 years ago to remark that people in England use a very 'Americanised' English, but I don't view this in any negative light whatsoever myself.

    So it seems to me that given the history in Scandinavian countries is probably very similar to medieval England with its separate kingdoms and dialects etc, and yet arrived at a very different result language wise, is there some concious effort in keeping the different languages.. well... different?

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